Joan Lesmond Memorial Award for nurse from Cameroon

Joan Lesmond Memorial Award for nurse from Cameroon

January 13, 2018

On the verge of throwing in the towel and giving up on the Canadian dream, Derrick Ntungwe was rescued by the CARE Centre for Internationally Educated Nurses (IEN).

Coming from Cameroon five years ago through the Federal Skilled Worker program, he spent a few months in Quebec working in the marketing sector before transitioning to Ontario.

Ntungwe was a nursing service director in his birth country.

“I came to Toronto because I felt I had a better chance of getting back into my field,” he said. “It was tough at first until a friend introduced me to the Care Centre in 2013.”

Funded by the provincial and federal governments, the CARE Centre provides IENs with the one-on-one case management, language and communication skills, exam preparation, professional development, mentoring and networking to be successful in the nursing profession.

Over 4,000 nurses from more than 140 countries have accessed the centre’s services and supports since 2001.

“The CARE Centre brings IENs together to know that we aren’t just people, but professionals who are on a journey with many hurdles,” said Ntungwe. “IENs come with exceptional experience bringing a global perspective to their work. I feel blessed to be introduced to the centre.”

The Saint Elizabeth Health Care community and mental health nurse is the recipient of the CARE Centre Dr. Joan Lesmond IEN of the Year Award presented at a luncheon recently.

She passed away seven years ago.

“I never got the opportunity to meet Joan, but from everything I have heard, she was a remarkable woman and I am honoured to be the recipient of an award bearing her name,” said Ntungwe.

Saint Elizabeth registered nurse Jill Matheson nominated Ntungwe for the honour.

“Derrick is so able and capable that I have incredible respect for all that he has accomplished,” she said. “He’s very aware of the client population and relates to them well on a personal and professional level by providing them with all of their needs. He has a compassionate understanding for those that are marginalised and diverse populations because he knows what struggle is all about.”

Shirlee Sharkey, the president and chief executive officer of St. Elizabeth, said the purpose of the award is to recognize an outstanding internationally educated nurse.

“Derrick embodies this as a leader of impact with Saint Elizabeth,” she pointed out. “We are proud to be continuing Joan’s work in her memory to champion diversity within the nursing profession. This is a tremendous achievement and we are very proud of Derrick’s commitment to his family and global community in receiving this award.”

Ntungwe, whose wife and three children joined him in Canada three years ago, is pursuing a Bachelor of Nursing degree at Ryerson University.

“My goal is to go as far as I can in the nursing profession while ensuring that my family also do very well,” he said.

The Dr. Joan Lesmond IEN of the Year Award was established seven years ago.

Lesmond, who migrated from St. Lucia in 1970 and was the was the only Black health care worker to be recognized in 2008 with a Canadian Nursing Association centennial award honouring Canada’s Top 100 registered nurses, died in the summer of 2011, just four months after being diagnosed with cancer. She was 59.

Prior to becoming ill, she was executive director of community engagement at St. Elizabeth Health Care Foundation where she successfully forged community partnerships and engagements in the areas of service delivery, international consulting and the chronic disease self-management program.

Lesmond held several high profile positions in the health care industry, ranging from frontline nursing practice to progressive management and senior leadership roles.

As chair of the Ontario Caregiver Coalition, she challenged the disproportionate burden of care on women and as president of the Association of Ontario Health Centres, she ensured the examination of social determinants of health and promoted the importance of anti-oppression frameworks. And as an educator at Ryerson University, Lesmond taught students the equal importance of quality of care, ethics and community engagement.

The late Dr. Joan Lesmond

The late Dr. Joan Lesmond

With the face of AIDS evolving over the years, Lesmond – as chief nursing executive and director of professional practice – led the re-design of Casey House’s  ‘Model of Care’ to be more supportive and responsive to women from diverse communities and she often offered indispensable support to Black women afflicted by the HIV/AIDS epidemic.

She also volunteered in South Africa with women and girls living with HIV/AIDS and became active in policy development for the South African Network of Nurses and Midwives which was launched in May 2001.

A past president of the Registered Nurses Association of Ontario (RNAO), chair of Regent Park Community Health Centre, director of Women’s College Hospital and the Hospital Association of Ontario, a founding board member of Hospice Palliative Care Ontario and a Health Force Ontario board member, Lesmond held a Bachelor of Science degree in Nursing, a Master’s in Community Health and a PhD. in Health Policy and Health Education with a focus on cultural competency in marginalized communities.

The RNAO president for two years up until April 2006 also instructed baccalaureate students at Ryerson and mentored staff at Women’s Health in Women’s Hands Community Health Clinic that provides primary health care to Black and other visible minority women.


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